Saturday, March 31, 2012

Of Violet and Unicorns

Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cypress
—Painting by Gentile Bellini, 1500

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

The angels fall asleep.
All cities fade into indistinct
Shapes crowded into each of
Our moments, paths toward
Dreaming and half-dreaming,

Floundering in yesterdays
Still trying to make real sense,
Any sense of darkness.

Touching snow, building an algebra
From the caresses of the wind.

Every second becomes poetic
Because that is the essence of every
Moment. A rush of sunlight at evening
Still trying to find a way into the darkness.

This gold was gold once.
This night was once night.
Parts of morning are heaped up
Next to where the earth
Keeps marbles, rains, these very
Dreams and other shadows we
Spend our lives giving
Names to, thinking we may
Understand them like a song
A bird might sing at evening.

Poor Bellini, always
Painting so quickly just
To stay alive. Looking out the
Windows of the Scuola
In Venice, bouncing light
Off mirrors into the center
Of the room so to praise,
So to keep out of the cruel
Weather of the Venetian night.

The oars pull our small boat
Through the undesirable
To the indecipherable, blending
Time and space use as a voice
For Dante and Shakespeare.

We drift out to sea
Not even noticing the violet
Of the air, the unicorn, the
Perfection of our fleeting weapons.


—D.R. Wagner

                (for E.R. Baxter III)

It was as if smooth hands
had memories and fingertips
were voices for the wind.
Nothing like this had ever occurred
before. There were legends perhaps,
but no tossing of the ocean ever
moved this way, no simple secret
of the northern lights ever burned
and perished, caused rooms to form
and fall away, question with the eyes
and force such clustering of spirits.

So, as dreams are forged from
the face of the dreamer, as books
were passed hand to hand, words
exchanged in low whispers against
distant bawling of hounds, these
secrets were floated before us
pointing now and again to place after
place where one and another of them
,breath of a winter's day, passed
before us as life dreamed. Sweet
fire, consuming night with perfumed

Crossing and recrossing these sands
the camels throw their soft eyes
toward the sides of their heads
and listen to the strange music
these hooded messengers sing.
The drivers mumble tunelessly
and think flutes and silver coins
tumbling into a red cup.


—D.R. Wagner

But I’m walking in the labyrinth
And the labyrinth begins to wander
Away from me. I have heard
About an ancient moon from Chaldea
That can decipher the climates
Of the heart and yet refuses
To do so until only the legend of its existence
Remains and even this is confined in a room
So silent it is said to exist only in a mirror.

I will go there and you may go with me
If you would like to see the
Kingdoms conquered, to learn to
Regret that the infinite can exist
In simple stories and uncountable
Rivers that flow through everything
We give meaning to every day
We forget or do not wish to name.

And there you may want to ask this same
Kind of question. Here is a personal souvenir.
It is a footprint toward the center.
I no longer recall where
I acquired it and since I am going
Out to sea again, I have no use for it
At all. Perhaps you will make something
Truly memorable of this day without
Getting lost in it. It is not so easy to do.


—D.R. Wagner

The great night is coming.
It has been untied from the deep woods.

The skies had unlocked
The colors of the sunset
Only a short time before.

Now the purples and mute grays were hauling
The darkness into the streets and alleys,
Into the rooms of the quiet houses.

Lamps were lit and we
Watched it slide over
Everything, leaving only
Little openings for the stars
To find their way through the cloth.

The great night made ready
The place for the moon.

The night has many voices
But the moon has no tongue.
It is mute yet it speaks
The perfect language of the heart,

Its milky charms able
To touch the possessions
Of the night without
Upsetting the darkness.

Coachmen hurry by toward
Unknown destinations, all
Part of her train.

We were witness here. We were
Witness only and we knew our role.
We would walk these streets
Bound by the stillness,
Charmed by the distant
Barking of dogs and startled
Outbursts of unseen birds,
Choirs of frogs and blue
Blotter paper steps of
Frogs and toads. They became
Our sole music until the dawning
The morning makes upon
All things. All things begin to open
The streets with wandering
Cats and the flutter of bats

Returned to their personal
Darks, never too far away
From these dreams fields,
Pushing us back into the
Walls of buildings, shadows
Once again waiting for
The great ceremony
The great night
Would once again make. We
Lose our voices and depart.


—D.R. Wagner

The purple children of the shadows
Open the field without explanation.
They cannot recall an earth built of hands
Or recognize these flickering plains as if
They were the ends of sentences
Recently spoken.

They are lost here as we are lost,
Circles of smoke, empathic
In their paths through
The studios of perturbing angels
Charged with regulating
The transgressions of fools
So as to keep the very
Dome of the heavens
From cracking altogether
And begin an endless multiplication
Of voids that eventually must be
Coupled to a regular breathing
In and out, a regular pattern
Of visions never quite understood,

Always rushing to put clothes on,
Making sure it will know what to say
If confronted by even greater shadows,
Say the ones who still roam
The cool passages of earth,
Never willing to do anything but claim
Victory if they can keep a body from
Sleeping, can keep it trapped in a mysterious
Flow of music that seems to bind itself
To a profound loneliness,
Able to ride in the same boat

Death uses to ply the edges
Of the night where these shadows
Assail an impenetrable jungle
Made of colors desperate
To complete themselves,
Eager to escape muted conversations,
Full of half-truths and confabulations
Purporting meaning but actually only

A scuttling of claws
Across the ocean floor,
Rushing away from the light,
Denying any knowledge of any shore,
Never recognizing rest as possible
Until that breathing finally stops
And we sink once again
Beneath creation's doors.


—D.R. Wagner

The culprit has a name
And endears himself to us
As does a flame in the
Challenge we call night,

Offers itself to us,
Swears to keep us safe,
Not to drop us from a height,
Guard our way with light,
That we may find a place
Where memories might infect us,
Place their hand upon our face,
Deprive all of us from grace.

I remain hidden in the reeds
Driven by these shouts I
Have come to recognize
As things I need
To find my way through
To morning and madly
Ill-arrange tempting seeds
That say “Yes, this all happened.
All of it is true.
You can see just how
It happened, yes all of it
Is true, true, true.

But I will no more
Believe this. I will
Abandon my dear self
To find the real truth.

I will hold your face
Before me, call your
Name aloud so please
Do not ignore me.
I know these dreams
Will come, will return
Without neither a rhyme
Nor reason
And I will know that this is real
For I will feel it in the deep
Heart’s core.
Yeats evenings full of linnets' wings
And further on, the dark
Gifts of age that
Time forces us to carry,
Tells us that we cannot tarry,
Hurry please, it’s time.
Be merry into the
Darkest cut of dark
Waving to us from the shore.

“I bid you well, good sir
And ask you not to follow
Anywhere close or far behind me
For they must not find me.
And for that small grace I’ll greet you, hold
My hand out long to greet you,
Say both loudly and most warmly,
Come in come in, there is no cause
To be afraid. Here is your place,
Your hearth, your tempered blade,
All the memories you’ve made.
You may take them to your grave.

There, they may never fade,
No matter what we’ve said or done.
They have been true always
And we, the foolish ones,
Who did not think this...that life itself,
It would be done, as we are found
Not at all alive
But dead upon the floor."


Thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's poetic breakfast, and thanks to those of you who've been wishing me Godspeed through this flu. There were also some comments about my rant yesterday re: poets trying to edit their work after they've sent it. I especially like Charles Mariano's MediumNip; see below. 

Today's MediumNip:

crippled snakes
—charles mariano, sacramento  

tho billowing pants
atop highest towers hail
seas of rolling blue skies,
yonder, beyond
and out there,
marshmellows, elephants, daffodils three

no wait, scratch that,
misspelled marshmallow
and the line-break for
daffodils should follow,
or go before

by the way,
delete daffodils
change to tulips
has a nice ring

o’er fields of steadfast cotton
blessed sunlight, glorious light
grappling desperately

no wait, eliminate that stanza
wrong metaphor
and besides,
has a slight odor

the rain in Spain
falls mainly on the Jane
rises are red,
are red, are red…

dang it!!



 Saint of Flies
—Photo enhancement by D.R. Wagner